Jimmy Kimmel has done again what Congressional Democratic leaders cannot: thrust the debate over how disastrous the GOP’s proposed healthcare plan would be for Americans with pre-existing conditions back into the national headlines. Sure, Democrats in Congress are objecting to the GOP proposal via press releases and on Twitter, but Kimmel has been clearly more effective at attracting media coverage on this issue.
As a reminder, Kimmel caused a national media firestorm in May with his emotional monologue about his newborn son’s health condition that moved many — including me — to tears. Kimmel spoke of his child who had been born just weeks before with a life-threatening heart condition that required emergency surgery to repair. While noting his family had health insurance for this birth defect, Kimmel fought back tears reflecting on how other families could lose coverage for such pre-existing conditions under the GOP plan then being championed with the words: “No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child’s life. It just shouldn’t happen. Not here.”
Shortly after that plea by Kimmel, GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La) coined the term “The Jimmy Kimmel test.” As Cassidy explained, he would only support a healthcare bill if it passes the test of “will the child born with congenital heart disease be able to get everything she or he would need in that first year of life?” adding, “I want it to pass the Jimmy Kimmel test.”
Flash forward and Cassidy is now one of the two main architects of the GOP healthcare plan that is on the verge of passing the US Senate. If that happens, it’s expected to pass the House and be signed into law by President Trump. This bill would, among other horrible things, undermine coverage for pre-existing conditions that is now guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Talk about failing the “Jimmy Kimmel test.”
Kimmel made this point himself Tuesday night by bluntly accusing Cassidy of coming on his show in May and lying “right to my face” when he vowed to follow the Kimmel test before supporting any healthcare proposal. Maybe if Congressional Democrats were that bold in their critique, they would attract some more media attention to the issue and, more importantly, generate some more political momentum for their ideas about how to fix healthcare.
Kimmel was unflinching in his indictment of what he saw as Cassidy’s hypocrisy. He showed a clip from his May interview with Cassidy, asking him, “Do you believe that every American, regardless of income, should be able to get regular checkups, maternity care, etc., all of those things that people who have health care get and need?” Cassidy’s response was a clear: “Yep.”
After the clip played, Kimmel slammed Cassidy with the joke, “‘Yep’ is Washington for ‘Nope.'” Kimmel ended his monologue saying that he had a new test for Cassidy, “It’s called a lie detector test,” adding, “You’re welcome to stop by the studio and take it anytime.”
On Wednesday, Cassidy appeared on CNN’s “New Day” to discuss his healthcare plan and sure enough he was challenged about the Kimmel test. Cassidy’s response to Kimmel’s criticism was simply, “I’m sorry he does not understand.”
To be fair, Kimmel, by his own admission, isn’t an expert on health insurance. But the long list of medical groups and organizations opposing the GOP plan are and they have the very same concerns Kimmel has raised.
In fact, the American Medical Association (AMA) put out a stern warning yesterday emphasizing the practical impact of the proposed GOP plan, which would allow individual states the ability to waive certain protections (like coverage for pre-existing conditions) now mandated under the ACA.
As the AMA explained, even though insurers are still technically required to offer coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions “allowing states to get waivers to vary premiums based on health status would allow insurers to charge unaffordable premiums based on those pre-existing conditions.”
If he wanted to, Cassidy could wait for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to evaluate the bill and answer all of our questions and address the concerns of parents like Kimmel and organizations like the AMA. But he won’t. Instead, as he noted in a statement today, “We have a September 30 deadline on our promise (to repeal the ACA). Let’s finish the job.”
It couldn’t be clearer that Cassidy and the GOP are more concerned with fulfilling a campaign promise than ensuring Americans have guaranteed coverage for preexisting conditions. They are playing politics with our healthcare and the lives of our families by weakening such coverage. And once again we can thank Kimmel — not Congressional Democratic leaders — for making this clear to all.